The Countryside Blog of an Essex Born Lady – July 2016 (5)

This week, Sharon Middleton is mulling over the harvest when she meets an unexpected visitor with 'teddy bear ears'.

Several dry days of long, hot sunshine helped to make way for another gathering season to begin at Wickham Hall.  Harvest was over in the barley fields, almost as quickly as it had started. 

And when the combine harvester had finished chewing the crop, (and everything else that got in its way), the soft straw was left lifeless and heaped on top of the stubble.  It laid in waves across the fields, reminding me of yet more childhood farm memories – stubble burning, which was a familiar sight in the countryside before the days of environmental concerns and straw choppers.


The following day the straw was baled.  More fine weather allowed for a quick turn around and, with the tramlines now cultivated and lime spread furiously over the field, another life-cycle will soon be underway.  It all seems so ruthlessly fast-moving, in a modern machinery world.

In the other surrounding fields, the wheat now stands tall; like a battalion of pristine, uniformed soldiers and not an ear out of place.  In patches, it is still ripening off but there is only the slightest hint of green left in the fields of gold.  Pink bindweed has exploded into many flowers, entwining threadlike tendrils around other flora growing there too.

Down by the river, one might be forgiven for thinking you could be somewhere abroad.  There was bird song that I couldn’t identify from our usual British friends, and I wondered who could be throwing their voice so far in the early morning.  I spotted a willow warbler singing contently in the trees and underneath a pair of mute swans were sunning themselves on a semi-submerged willow trunk.  Last summer, a number of willow trees were harvested and their wood used to make the finest Essex cricket bats.  Harvest of this kind won’t happen again for another few decades, when the most recently planted will have matured.


A frantic and painful squeal was heard coming from the hay field which broke the morning’s silence further on.  I suspected a fox had probably taken a rabbit, or maybe two; for they are easy prey when they are suffering with myxomatosis, and sadly many have already succumbed to the disease, as they always do this time of year.

I needed to see what might have inflicted such terrible torment.  As I peered into the field, slight movement attracted my attention weaving through the long grass and very tall nettles.  I watched intently and caught sight of a small black tipped fluffy tail, casually swaying low through the undergrowth.  The creature seemed to be going about his own usual business, totally oblivious to my presence, until he came into full view and our eyes met …. his tiny, black eyes held mine; his white bib – spotlessly clean; his long slender, agile body immediately stopped while he assessed any potential threat; his endearing teddy bear ears listened as I said good morning to the stoat.  Unexpectedly stopped short in his tracks, he retraced his steps with haste.  I’d only been a foot or so away from this aggressive little hunter, but Mother Nature had touched me once again.

Some moments are better left un-captured through a lens and I’m sure Edith Holden would have agreed, that this was one of those moments……


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